Lewistown schools moving bond recommendation to next year

By: 
CHARLIE DENISON
Senior Reporter
Tuesday, January 28, 2020
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Lewistown Schools Superintendent Thom Peck said a bond recommendation could include the school district selling the Lincoln building.

Photo by Charlie Denison

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Thom Peck

After 16 listening sessions, much discussion and a slew of research, Lewistown Schools Superintendent Thom Peck said a bond recommendation is now slated for early 2021.

“We were originally shooting for May of 2020, but we want to take our time and get everyone’s input,” he said.

This decision was solidified Tuesday, Jan. 21 during a special school board meeting with architects, where Peck said everybody seemed to be on the same page. 

“The priorities of the bond remain the same,” he said. “The safety and security of our schools is the bottom line. That’s one thing we’ve really been working on: assessing the vulnerability of our schools. There are a lot of practical things we can do here that don’t involve a lot of building changes.”

Another priority of the bond is to use the building spaces more efficiently.

“When it comes to our facilities, technology costs, food services and more, there’s a lot we could do differently,” Peck said. “We could save a lot of money over the next 20 years by using our infrastructure more efficiently.” 

On this note, Peck said the administration and school board are considering selling the Lincoln building and Garfield Elementary.

This dramatic shift is the school’s way to not just improve education, but also improve the community, Peck said, as it will help address a huge need.

“Like a lot of communities in Montana, we have a huge daycare issue here,” he said. 

Peck said there is a long waiting list at Small Wonder and reports of people wanting to work here who can’t find the childcare they need. This has affected the school, as well, adding another obstacle for them while trying to recruit quality teachers. Lack of affordable housing also factors into recruiting quality employees, be it at the school or at local manufacturing companies.

It is Peck’s hope Lincoln and Garfield could potentially be used to help solve the childcare crisis in town. If the buildings are sold, Peck said there is potential to expand some of the other school buildings.

The school board shares this sentiment, Peck added.

“They view this bond project as a way to make the whole community better,” he said. “They’ve worked very hard on it.”

Peck said he also appreciates contributions made by those who attended the listening sessions.

“Their feedback was really, really good,” he said. “It was a great group of diverse people: business owners, retired people, farmers and ranchers were involved. They asked good questions and they asked hard questions. I want to thank everyone who attended.”

Peck added that he plans to have more listening sessions in the near future. He also plans on conducting surveys. Ultimately, he wants to make sure this bond recommendation is beneficial for the school and other community entities.

“When the school does well, the community does well, and when the community does well, the school does well,” he said. “We’re all in this together.”

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